“It feels great. We all feel great and are excited. We really needed that win. Coming into this week, it was a must-win game. We got the momentum, that confidence boost and we really feel like we’re rolling.”
-- Packers tight end Andrew Quarless.
“It’s a long season, there’s still a lot of football games to be played. We just have to take this victory and try to move forward with it.”
-- Packers left tackle Chad Clifton.
“You can call it what you want, it was huge regardless. The win, the last couple plays, everything was big tonight because we talk about what we want to do as a team, so tonight was a step in the right direction.”
-- Packers safety Nick Collins.
“As thrilling and exciting as it is to win these types of games, for me it is devastating. I take a lot of pride and ownership in all phases of the game. You have the ball in your hand and you hope to win these. You just feel like you let everybody down.”
-- Vikings quarterback Brett Favre
“We’re a 2-4 football team right now. It’s gut check time, we’ve got to see what we can do about it.”
-- Vikings defensive end Jared Allen
They needed an overturned replay challenge and a tough stop in the final seconds from their defense, but the Green Bay Packers did it. They beat Brett Favre.
After getting swept by Favre and the Minnesota Vikings last season, the Packers stood strong in front of a national TV audience. They turned back Favre’s fourth-quarter rally and give their own NFC North Division title hopes a boost with a 28-24 win over their bitter rival in front of 71,107 spectators at boisterous Lambeau Field on Sunday night.
“It was an excellent team win and an excellent character win,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Something this team needed.”
The win, which came after the Packers had lost back-to-back games, puts them at 4-3 as they close in on the halfway point of the 2010 season, and tied for first place in the division with Chicago, which lost to Washington. Minnesota, on the other hand, dropped to 2-4 and is on the brink of getting chased out of the division race with a tough game coming up against AFC contender New England next week.
“A little bit more special because of the significance of where we’re at in the season,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in describing his feelings. “We were 3-3 coming in, a division opponent, our greatest rival, close score, the way it ended. It was a special night for us.”
Last year, the Vikings swept the Packers behind Favre’s ultra-sharp play plus a vicious pass rush that sacked Rodgers 14 times in the two games combined. But the Packers were able to turn around both of those problems in this game.
Though Favre at times was able to stand comfortably in the pocket, his 50.4 passer rating reflected the occasional effectiveness of the Packers’ rush.
Even with a defensive line that lost Cullen Jenkins (calf strain) in warm-ups and Ryan Pickett (ankle) in the first quarter, the Packers got to Favre for one sack and several key pressures. They also drew a critical penalty when Vikings tackle Phil Loadholt grabbed Clay Matthews’ facemask after the outside linebacker blew around him, which set the Vikings back 15 yards when they appeared on the brink of the go-ahead touchdown late in the game.
On the other side, tackles Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga held steadfast in protecting Rodgers, who wasn’t sacked. Though Rodgers didn’t have a huge game, it was good enough (295 yards passing, two touchdowns, two interceptions) to lift the weight of the two losses to the Vikings last season.
“This is a good win,” Pickett said. “I don’t know about any monkey (off the back), we have a tough stretch starting with the Jets (this week). But it’s good to get this win.
“They’re the division champs, so it felt great beating them. It was rough losing two last year, that was the hardest thing. To get a win, with as banged up as we are, to overcome that and get this win, it’s special.”
The Packers also had the sweet taste of benefiting from the same kind of Favre errors that occasionally cost them during his 16 seasons as their quarterback.
After not intercepting Favre last year, they got him three times in the second half Sunday, including a game-turner when linebacker Desmond Bishop returned a desperate Favre throw as he was about to be sacked by Brad Jones. It turned into a 32-yard touchdown that put the Packers ahead 28-17 in the third quarter.
Linebacker A.J. Hawk had another pick, and safety Nick Collins made the third, an acrobatic catch on a Favre dart to receiver Percy Harvin in the fourth quarter that snuffed out a potential Vikings scoring drive at the Packers’ 23.
The Packers also got the stops on Favre’s last-minute attempt to rally the Vikings. Favre appeared poised to break the hearts of the Packers and their fans when he took over with the Vikings trailing 28-24 with 6:07 to play from his 17 and moved to the Packers’ 15 with 1:03 to play.
But that’s when the Packers held firm.
The big play came on first and 15 from the 20, when Matthews beat Loadholt on an outside rush. The big right tackle reached out and stopped the rush by grabbing Matthews’ facemask, which gave Favre time to complete a pass. But the penalty moved the Vikings back to the Packers’ 35.
Immediately after that, Favre stepped up in the pocket, pump faked and connected with Harvin for an apparent miracle throw and catch that would have given Minnesota the lead. The officials on the field ruled the play a touchdown, but Harvin clearly came down with one foot out of bounds. McCarthy’s replay challenge led to the call being overturned.
“My heart kind of dropped. (Backup quarterback) Matt Flynn and I were standing next to each other when Percy caught that ball,” Rodgers said. “I just thanked God he was out of bounds."
That left Favre with three plays and 57 seconds to try to pull out the win.
After completing a 15-yard pass to halfback Adrian Peterson, Favre on third down rolled far to his right and tried to throw a jump ball to 6-foot-4 Randy Moss all the way back across the field in the end zone. That ball was overthrown, leaving the Vikings with 28 seconds left, no time outs and a fourth-and-15.
On the last play, Favre slipped as he stepped up against the Packers’ three-man rush, then scrambled forward and threw to Moss in the end zone. The pass was high, and the game was over.
“You have to give our defense a lot of credit," Rodgers said. "When they needed a stop they were able to get a stop, big plays. Kept Randy from making a big jump-ball catch and really the whole game did a nice job corralling him. They have a lot of weapons on that side, so you have to give our defense a lot of credit.”